Luna Gaia: The Green Side of the Moon


Here's one for the apocalyptic, techno-nerdy and ecological design enthusiast alike: "Luna Gaia," a lunar habitat designed international team of scientists, engineers and grad students that'll make dwelling on the moon not only almost entirely sustainable but borderline cushy and even fun. Fresh vegetables and fish, spacious rooms (by moon standards, anyway) and clean drinking water are just a few of the amenities that await dwellers of this green moon unit.

The self-sustaining habitat, which harvests solar energy and reuses all of its waste, was conceived and designed by a group attending a summer-long Space Studies Program at the International Space University in Strasbourg, France. Thanks to Google's new Lunar X Prize and an audience at NASA, Luna Gaia is proving to be more than just a pipe-dreamy academic exercise; in the past year, the team has presented the plan to several space programs, including NASA, which may incorporate some of the ideas into its own lunar outpost, planned for sometime after 2020.


According to the plans, the Luna Gaia community will be divided into linked, studio-apartment-size pods. Nestled in a crater, to limit its inhabitants' exposure to solar radiation, it would include private rooms and social areas, labs and exercise rooms, and greenhouses in which astronauts could grow the food necessary for a balanced diet. Filters, plants and bacteria will turn wash water and urine into potable water. Algae and other greenery turn carbon dioxide into oxygen. Overall, the group estimates, these systems would make Luna Gaia 90 to 95 percent sustainable, meaning fewer service trips, longer visits and a clearer conscience.

Based on this preliminary design, Popular Science estimates there'd be "6 Steps to Clean Lunar Living:

Designs call for Luna Gaia to be built in a mile-wide crater near the moon's north pole. The crater wall casts a shadow that protects the astronauts from solar radiation.

A dozen mirrors, each 100 feet wide, sit on top of the crater's rim, an area that's nearly constantly bathed in sunlight. These direct light onto another set of mirrors that focus the beam on a water supply, creating steam that drives a turbine and generates electricity for the base.

Luna Gaia will consist of several inflatable modules made of Vectran, a flexible material that's more durable than Kevlar and can be compressed in transit to help keep delivery costs down. The greenhouses will be transparent, but living quarters will be covered with a layer of regolith, or lunar soil, to provide added protection from radiation.

Tilapia are high in protein and thrive in a crowded tank. Astronauts will also dine on hydroponically grown wheat and a variety of vegetables, such as spinach and potatoes. The same algae that cleans up the crew's water will be a good source of protein.

Urine runs first through an ion-exchange filter that removes some contaminants and then into the algae tanks, where the algae drink it up and release water vapor that a condenser liquifies. This water either runs back to the crew quarters for washing or is further purified to make it drinkable.

Several different strains of bacteria break down feces into water, minerals and ammonium. These materials are converted into nutrient-rich fertilizer and pumped into the plant, fish and algae chambers."

Far out. We've seen examples of people who practice and real life examples of the promise of ecological design, so we know this stuff (theoretically) works, at least on this planet. Perhaps we won't need hindsight to realize this in 2020. ::Popular Science via ::Geekologie

Related Content on